Lot 133: Magritte, René. An important unpublished archive.
April 18, 2016
Calabasas, CA, USALive Auction
133. Magritte, René. An important unpublished archive showcasing the intimate correspondence between René Magritte and his wife, Georgette Berger. Spanning the entire length of their relationship, the correspondence is an extraordinary testament to the close relationship between artist and muse over a lifetime. From love letters before their marriage, to letters during visits to Paris with mention of Girogio de Chirico, Salvador Dali, André Breton and Paul Colinet, to letters from his extended visit to Edward James in London, the correspondence is particularly rich and multifaceted especially in the formative stages of his career. No less than eighty-four autograph letters and autograph postcards signed are in the hand of Magritte himself. The correspondence provides fascinating insights into the artist’s creative process and provides valuable information on Magritte’s artistic output over a forty-five-year period (1920 – 1967). Written in the clear and deliberate penmanship that he used for adding text to his paintings, Magritte’s letters are a remarkable distillation of the word/image interdependence, which was central to his artistic objective. Rich commentary on a number of his most famous canvases and his progress on them may be found in the present archive. From the year 1937 alone, Magritte mentions a number of his most iconic paintings: The Future of Statues, Youth Illustrated, The Red Model, On The Threshold of Liberty, The Pleasure Principle and Not To Be Reproduced.
Included in the archive are over one hundred and twenty autograph letters and postcards by Georgette Berger to her beloved husband. Georgette’s letters and notes clearly articulate their inextricable link to one another. Their separations from one another can only be described as trying for both, but especially for Georgette. Though she misses her husband sorely, Georgette understands Magritte’s absences are for a higher purpose: his artistic development. Together Magritte’s letters to Georgette and her letters to him provide an expansive window into the complexity of their relationship and the impact of that relationship on Magritte’s artistic expression. The archive also includes letters, documents and ephemera amassed by Georgette Berger. Financial documents, passports, nationality identification cards, telegrams, funeral notices for the parents of Georgette, astrologic and health charts, souvenirs, receipts, bills and newspaper clippings are carefully preserved and add yet another facet to the Magritte Archive on offer herewith. Set in context, the Magritte Archive provides extraordinary insights to the artist’s progressive embodiment of Surrealism and his early influences. Without a doubt, the archive provides important insights on the Magritte’s artistic journey. Though many of the letters and postcards are undated the great richness of the archive lies in the pre-war correspondence. It was during this period of time that husband and wife were separated most, making for a larger volume of correspondence. It is also the period of time when Magritte established his artistic voice. It would be this voice that made him heard in Europe and then America thanks to the faithful friendship of his agent, Alexander Iolas.
Magritte first painted in the Cubist and Futurist manner while attending the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Ultimately, he felt more strongly drawn to a literary circle inspired by Dada. Becoming the central figure in this circle Magritte formed the heart of Surrealism that developed in Belgium between 1925 and 1930. Becoming more and more acquainted with “Pittura Metafisica”, Magritte completely rejected his early work and set out in a new direction. When his initial compositions in the realm of Surrealism were not met with appreciation from the Brussels art scene, Magritte moved to Paris in 1927. The great French writer and poet André Breton befriended Magritte and introduced him to the work of Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, and Marcel Duchamp to name just a few. During this time in Paris, Magritte’s distinctive enigmatic style began to mature – yet, it was not long before Magritte tired of the superficial methods of the Parisian Surrealists and their penchant for dreams, drugs, and alcohol for artistic vision. He returned to Brussels in 1930. Ironically, although Magritte’s personal connections with Surrealism became strained, his extraordinary compositions remained clearly Surrealistic in style. Accordingly, Magritte was represented in all the important Surrealism exhibitions in the 1930s.
During this important phase of his career, he met the eclectic British poet and collector, Edward James. A patron of Salvador Dali, James was a great supporter of the Surrealist Art Movement. Through an introduction to James from Dali and others, Magritte met James in 1936. Impressed by Magritte’s submission to the “International Surrealist Exhibition”, James offered a commission to Magritte to execute three large paintings for James’ house on Wimpole Street. The paintings included two portraits The Pleasure Principle and Not To Be Reproduced and a new version of On the Threshold of a Dream entitled On the Threshold of Liberty. In January 1937, James invited Magritte to stay at his home for a month or two and complete the paintings. In February 1937, along with his patron and friend, ELT Mesens, Magritte voyaged to London. The five-week stay went well and James was pleased with Magritte’s work. When the artist returned to Brussels, James commissions three new versions of Magritte’s earlier paintings, The Poetic World, The Red Model and Youth Illustrated. Understandably, Magritte believed he now had a new wealthy patron. Magritte wrote to James in 1938 offering to produce more paintings in exchange for a per anum fee of £100. James declined Magritte’s offer. And though James continued to buy several more paintings from Magritte the thrust of James’ patronage of Magritte was over. James would remain friends with Magritte for many years but it was his role in 1937 and 1938 that was paramount to the artist’s career. Magritte’s time in Paris and in London could not have been more pivotal in the development of his style and his artistic voice. The archive is rich in correspondence during this early period of his career. The lengthy absences between husband and wife during Magritte’s stays in Paris and London produced a substantial exchange of correspondence with much hitherto unknown information on Magritte’s genius and artistic activity. No less than twenty-four autograph letters and autograph postcards signed from 15 February to 31 March 1937 relate to his stay with Edward James and provide extraordinary insights in his artistic endeavors during this important phase of his career. The Magritte archive comprising 278 items constitutes a highly important cache of manuscripts and ephemera which imparts an unparalleled view into the world of the renowned Surrealist artist. Completely unpublished, the archive allows one to further understand René Magritte as an artist, an entrepreneur and a husband with a compendium of primary source material. $250,000 - $350,000